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Text and Artifact in the Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity Cover

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Text and Artifact in the Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity

Essays in Honour of Peter Richardson

Can archaeological remains be made to “speak” when brought into conjunction with texts? Can written remains, on stone or papyrus, shed light on the parables of Jesus, or on the Jewish view of afterlife? What are the limits to the use of artifactual data, and when is the value overstated? Text and Artifact addresses the complex and intriguing issue of how primary religious texts from the ancient Mediterranean world are illuminated by, and in turn illuminate, the ever-increasing amount of artifactual evidence available from the surrounding world.

The book honours Peter Richardson, and the first two chapters offer appreciations of this scholarship and teaching. The remaining chapters focus on early Christianity, late-antique Judaism and topics germane to the Roman world at large. Many of the essays relate to features of Jewish life — the epigraphic evidence for gentile converts to Judaism or for Jewish defectors, ancient accounts of the Essenes or of the siege of Masada, and the material context of the first great rabbinic work, the Mishnah. Other essays connect early Christian texts with the social and cultural realia of their day — modes of travel, notions of gender, patronage and benefaction, the relation of tenants and owners — or reflect on the aesthetics of Christian architecture and the relation between building and ritual in Constantinian churches. One study relates the writing of the famous novelist Apuleius to a household mithraeum in Ostia, while another explores the changing appropriation of religious realia as the Roman world became Christian.

These wide-ranging and original studies demonstrate clearly that texts and artifacts can be mutually supportive. Equally, they point to ways in which artifacts, no less than texts, are inherently ambiguous and teach us to be cautious in our conclusions.

The Texture of the Divine Cover

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The Texture of the Divine

Imagination in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Thought

Aaron W. Hughes

The Texture of the Divine explores the central role of the imagination in the shared symbolic worlds of medieval Islam and Judaism. Aaron W. Hughes looks closely at three interrelated texts known as the Hayy ibn Yaqzan cycle (dating roughly from 1000--1200 CE) to reveal the interconnections not only between Muslims and Jews, but also between philosophy, mysticism, and literature. Each of the texts is an initiatory tale, recounting a journey through the ascending layers of the universe. These narratives culminate in the imaginative apprehension of God, in which the traveler gazes into the divine presence. The tales are beautiful and poetic literary works as well as probing philosophical treatises on how the individual can know the unknowable. In this groundbreaking work, Hughes reveals the literary, initiatory, ritualistic, and mystical dimensions of medieval Neoplatonism. The Texture of the Divine also includes the first complete English translation of Abraham Ibn Ezra's Hay ben Meqitz.

Theorizing Scriptures Cover

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Theorizing Scriptures

New Critical Orientations to a Cultural Phenomenon

Edited by Vincent L. Wimbush

Historically, religious scriptures are defined as holy texts that are considered to be beyond the abilities of the layperson to interpret. Their content is most frequently analyzed by clerics who do not question the underlying political or social implications of the text, but use the writing to convey messages to their congregations about how to live a holy existence. In Western society, moreover, what counts as scripture is generally confined to the Judeo-Christian Bible, leaving the voices of minorities, as well as the holy texts of faiths from Africa and Asia, for example, unheard. 

In this innovative collection of essays that aims to turn the traditional bible-study definition of scriptures on its head, Vincent L. Wimbush leads an in-depth look at the social, cultural, and racial meanings invested in these texts. Contributors hail from a wide array of academic fields and geographic locations and include such noted academics as Susan Harding, Elisabeth Shüssler Fiorenza, and William L. Andrews.

Purposefully transgressing disciplinary boundaries, this ambitious book opens the door to different interpretations and critical orientations, and in doing so, allows an ultimately humanist definition of scriptures to emerge.

Things:Religion and the Question of Materiality Cover

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Things:Religion and the Question of Materiality

Religion and the Question of Materiality

Dick Houtman

That relation has long been conceived in antagonistic terms, privileging spirit above matter, belief above ritual and objects, meaning above form, and "inward" contemplation above "outward" action. After all, wasn't the opposition between spirituality and materiality the defining characteristic of religion, understood as geared to a transcendental beyond that was immaterial by definition? Grounded in the rise of religion as a modern category, with Protestantism as its main exponent, this conceptualization devalues religious things as lacking serious empirical, let alone theoretical, interest. The resurgence of public religion in our time has exposed the limitations of this attitude.Taking materiality seriously, this volume uses as a starting point the insight that religion necessarily requires some kind of incarnation, through which the beyond to which it refers becomes accessible. Conjoining rather than separating spirit and matter, incarnation (whether understood as "the world becoming flesh" or in a broader sense) places at center stage the question of how the realm of the transcendental, spiritual, or invisible is rendered tangible in the world.How do things matter in religious discourse and practice? How are we to account for the value or devaluation, the appraisal or contestation, of things within particular religious perspectives? How are we to rematerialize our scholarly approaches to religion? These are the key questions addressed by this multidisciplinary volume. Focusing on different kinds of things that matter for religion, including sacred artifacts, images, bodily fluids, sites, and electronic media, it offers a wide-ranging set of multidisciplinary studies that combine detailed analysis and critical reflection.

Toward a Theology of Eros Cover

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Toward a Theology of Eros

Transfiguring Passion at the Limits of Discipline

Virginia Burrus

What does theology have to say about the place of eroticism in the salvific transformation of men and women, even of the cosmos itself? How, in turn, does eros infuse theological practice and transfigure doctrinal tropes? Avoiding the well-worn path of sexual moralizing while also departing decisively from Anders Nygren's influential insistence that Christian agape must have nothing to do with worldly eros, this book explores what is still largely uncharted territory in the realm of theological erotics. The ascetic, the mystical, the seductive, the ecstatic-these are the places where the divine and the erotic may be seen to converge and love and desire to commingle.Inviting and performing a mutual seduction of disciplines, the volume brings philosophers, historians, biblical scholars, and theologians into a spirited conversation that traverses the limits of conventional orthodoxies, whether doctrinal or disciplinary. It seeks new openings for the emergence of desire, love, and pleasure, while challenging common understandings of these terms. It engages risk at the point where the hope for salvation paradoxically endangers the safety of subjects-in particular, of theological subjects-by opening them to those transgressions of eros in which boundaries, once exceeded, become places of emerging possibility.The eighteen chapters, arranged in thematic clusters, move fluidly among and between premodern and postmodern textual traditions-from Plato to Emerson, Augustine to Kristeva, Mechthild to Mattoso, the Shulammite to Molly Bloom, the Zohar to the Da Vinci Code. In so doing, they link the sublime reaches of theory with the gritty realities of politics, the boundless transcendence of God with the poignant transience of materiality.

Tradition and Modernity Cover

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Tradition and Modernity

Christian and Muslim Perspectives

David Marshall, Editor. Afterword by Rowan Williams

Tradition and Modernity focuses on how Christians and Muslims connect their traditions to modernity, looking especially at understandings of history, changing patterns of authority, and approaches to freedom. The volume includes a selection of relevant texts from 19th- and 20th-century thinkers, from John Henry Newman to Tariq Ramadan, accompanied by illuminating commentaries.

Unworldly Wise Cover

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Unworldly Wise

as the owl remarked to the rabbit

Wu-wei Wei

This book is about the surprise of the wisdom revealed by the familiar and unfamiliar animals. Since the verbal expression attributed to them is that of their interpreter O.O.O., there is nothingunnatural or mysterious about what they are given to say.

Who Knows? Cover

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Who Knows?

A Study of Religious Consciousness

Raymond M. Smullyan

Is there really a God, and if so, what is God actually like? Is there an afterlife, and if so, is there such a thing as eternal punishment for unrepentant sinners, as many orthodox Christians and Muslims believe? And is it really true that our unconscious minds are connected to a higher spiritual reality, and if so, could this higher spiritual reality be the very same thing that religionists call "God"? In his latest book, Raymond M. Smullyan invites the reader to explore some beautiful and some horrible ideas related to religious and mystical thought. In Part One, Smullyan uses the writings on religion by fellow polymath Martin Gardner as the starting point for some inspired ideas about religion and belief. Part Two focuses on the doctrine of Hell and its justification, with Smullyan presenting powerful arguments on both sides of the controversy. "If God asked you to vote on the retention or abolition of Hell," he asks, "how would you vote?" Smullyan has posed this question to many believers and received some surprising answers. In the last part of his treasurable triptych, Smullyan takes up the "beautiful and inspiring" ideas of Richard Bucke and Edward Carpenter on Cosmic Consciousness. Readers will delight in Smullyan's observations on religion and in his clear-eyed
presentation of many new and startling ideas about this most wonderful product of human consciousness.

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